All posts by Nan Toskey

Nan is a Twin Cities Media Content Creator specializing in healthcare videos and crafting media through storytelling workshops.

What makes stories influential?

We all love stories, everybody knows that … but why are stories such a powerful way to influence others?

“A powerful yet subtle shift occurs when you seek to influence people to make “wise” decisions rather than the “right” ones.” –Annette Simmons

Annette Simmons – Six Kinds of Stories

To date my favorite guru on the influential power of stories is Annette Simmons. My favorite book title is “The Story Factor”. Here she recommends that if you want to use story to influence others (and who doesn’t?) … ponder these Six Kinds of Stories:

Who-I-Am Stories

As a rule, we are not influenced by those we do not trust. We need to know someone before we can really trust them … and earning our respect takes time. Who-I-Am stories illustrate a personal experience or a true story that speaks to our personality, our character, and ultimately our likeability and trust worthiness.

Why-I-Am-Here Stories

Human beings have an innate sense of fairness and reciprocity. Sure, our bottom line is “What’s in it for us?”, but we don’t bother asking until we understand ‘What’s in it for them?”. Why-I-Am-Here stories illustrate a personal experience or a true story that conveys our motivations, which ultimately reveals if our intentions are genuinely good.

Vision Stories

In theory, we all understand that life is a never ending cycle of ups and downs. But when we’re in the real world experiencing obstacles, or listening to why we should overcome for “the cause” … we are not on board unless we “SEE” the goodness of the pay back. Vision stories connect struggle to the meaningful light at the end of the tunnel.

Teaching Stories

Any teachable moment involves demonstrating various results arising from different actions. Yet to truly influence behavior one must first ask the audience’s question “WHY should I CHANGE?” Teaching stories use the power of human experience to communicate beyond end results to what makes certain actions more worthwhile.

I-Know-What-You’re-Thinking Stories

Skepticism is a natural first response to any proposed change. Understandably, because to accept something new means to sacrifice something else. I-Know-What-You’re-Thinking stories validate unspoken objections to soften fixed positions of resistance.

Values-In-Action Stories

Though “actions speak louder than words” … a story about those actions is the next best thing to being there. Values-In-Action Stories use personal experience to communicate doing the right thing (when no one was looking) … or lessons learned when a different choice was made.



Nurstory is a collaboration between nursing faculty, researcher, and documentary filmmaker with Seedworks Films, Sue Hagedorn, and the founders of the digital storytelling movement, StoryCenter, conducting storytelling workshops to examine how personal stories of nurses and other providers can contribute to nursing education.

Nurse participants share stories about challenges and formative decisions they make, in nursing. The resulting stories are being used to engage nursing faculty, nursing doctoral candidates, and practicing providers in dialogue about health care ethics, the value of reflective practices, the need to address secondary trauma among nurses, and the true meaning of compassionate care.

THAT KID by Bobbi Jo O’Neil

Perhaps we are made from the stories we carry. For forensic nurses, then, this is at times a harrowing place in which to live. This Nurstory digital storytelling workshop helped participants process vicarious/secondary trauma and then externalize those narratives into digital stories.


Personal Narrative Basics

Excerpt from Texas Gateway “Write a Personal Narrative

All personal narratives have these features:

  • You can think of them as short autobiographical sketches (slices of your life), which are factual.
  • You write them about singular events, which can cover anything that has happened to you.
  • They are meaningful to you and include your personal reactions, insights, and observations.
  • You write them from the first person perspective, so they use the pronouns I, me, my, mine.

Four steps in preparing to write a personal narrative include:

  1. Brainstorm ideas and decide on an event or experience in your life about which you want to write. For example, you can use a graphic organizer to help recollect past experiences or events.
  2. Narrow the focus of the event or experience by adding details. You can start the narrowing process for your essay by remembering as many details as you can about your entries in the brainstorming graphic organizer.
  3. Pick one of the details on which to focus. That is, choose ONE detail about the experience or event you picked and think hard about what happened and how you felt about it.
  4. Write down the central idea of your essay that includes both the event and why it is important to you. Use all the thoughts and feelings you wrote down in the previous step to help you focus on exactly what is (and continues to be) significant about the experience you chose.

Questions to help begin writing personal narrative:

  • The event or experience that I am focusing on is . . .
  • The details that I remember about this event are (as many as you can remember):
  • Some words that I would use to describe my event or experience are (for example, frightening, fulfilling, anxious, joyful):
  • I was deeply affected by . . .
  • This changed me because it . . .
  • I will always remember . . .
  • This is important to me because it . . .

Object Stories

What stories do objects hold? How can using our own objects help us access our own personal stories?

Below is a beautiful object story by Graziella Bonaguidi.

YOUR TURN! Choose your object and think about why you chose it. Ask yourself:
  • What do I want to say about this object?
  • What details will help my listeners understand my object or my story?
Six prompts to help you write an object story:

1. Discovery
When and how did you first receive or encounter the object?
What was your first impression of it?
Who was there?

2. Meaning
Did you know it was significant from the beginning?
How did your object gain meaning?
Has its meaning changed over time?

3. Value
What does the object say about you?
What event or person taught you the importance of this object?

4. Reward
What is the best reward of owning your object?

5. Conclusion
If you had to give it to someone, who would that be and what would you say to them?

6. Description
Before we take pictures, please describe your object.
What does it look like?
What does it feel like?
What does it smell like?


What is a video script?

A video script is the blueprint and foundation for your digital video. It’s a chronological run-down of scenes displaying the dialogue and action that you want to appear in your video.

Just as an architect’s blueprint is the foundation for the construction of a building, so too is the script for crafting a video. As the writer/storyteller, you are essentially the “architect” of what will be seen and heard by your audience.

Writing a script allows you to whittle down your ideas into one coherent unfolding story line of words, imagery and sounds. A video script displays the multiple layers happening as a video plays. This blueprint bridges the gap between the story idea and video editing needed to craft a digital story.

Feel free to use our 4 column video script template.


Workshop @ Maple Grove Art Center

my POV (point of view)
Digital Storytelling Workshop

Dates: Tuesdays, July 9th-30th
(Video editing conducted remotely the following week)
Time: 7-9pm
Cost: $150 Non-member/$135 Member
Location: Maple Grove Art Center
Instructor: Nan Toskey

Online Registration 
Mail In Registration Form

Join us to learn the craft of first person digital storytelling! 
my POV workshop participants learn how to write, craft, and edit a digital story based on a personal experience into a memorable video to be posted online. Media Artist conducts video editing in collaboration with digital storytellers. Class does not meet for a fifth session, but the instructor will work with students on final editing during that week.

Workshops consist of 4 weekly 2 hour sessions, plus remote video editing with media artist:
1 – Key Ingredients of First Person Digital Storytelling

Workshop participants learn key concepts within the multiple layers of digital storytelling.

2 – Writing Personal Voice Stories

Workshop participants learn how to write a short first person narrative in a  conversational spoken word style.

3 – Crafting a Video Script

Using video script writing techniques, workshop participants develop an audio visual narrative to accompany story narration.

4 – Story Making Production

Workshop participants create and gather media assets and record story narration.

5 – Story Making Video Editing [offsite]

Media Artist edits digital stories remotely and in collaboration with workshop participants.

Exploring FIRST PERSON Digital Storytelling

June 19 – 6-7pm

Training Room 133
Maple Grove Library
8001 Main St, Maple Grove, MN 55369
Map link to Maple Grove Library

Presentation and Digital Story Screening exploring the digital storytelling community arts movement.

Media Artist Nan Toskey will present several Digital Stories made by individuals from around the world, plus showcase four digital stories made by Maple Grove residents in a workshop conducted June 2018 at the Maple Grove Community Center.

Event concludes with details on upcoming my POV Digital Storytelling Workshop at Maple Grove Art Center.

Good storytellers create rapport.

Excerpt from Art of Charm post “How to Tell a Great Story” by Johnny Dzubak

The whole reason to tell a story isn’t to hear yourself speak. It’s to create a connection between you and the listener. That’s the magic of great storytelling. And like any kind of rapport-building exercise, there’s one simple rule in play: high risk, high reward; low risk, low reward.

Basically, the higher the level of self-disclosure in the story, the deeper the connection you’re going to make with your listeners. But there’s also the risk that you might expose too much and embarrass yourself. Alternately, you might come across too strong and alienate or even offend your listeners. Becoming a good storyteller is about mastering that trade-off over time.

Ultimately, that’s a calculated risk you’re going to have to make when you tell a personal story. But I’ve broken it down into three basic levels to help you get a feel for what you’re getting yourself into:

  • Light disclosure involves amusing anecdotes about yourself and the world around you. Light disclosure tends to be brief, with a clearly defined beginning, middle and end. This tends to be a quick little anecdote about something funny or interesting that happened to you in the course of your daily life.
  • Medium disclosure gets more serious, because it involves your beliefs, opinions and ideas about the world. This is a riskier proposition, because there’s someone out there who’s bound to be affected by your thoughts and feelings. Medium disclosure is best for after you have established some degree of rapport with your listeners. You need to feel reasonably safe that, even if they don’t agree, that they won’t be looking for the nearest exit.
  • Heavy disclosure is, as you might guess, the riskiest and most difficult kind of storytelling. This is where you begin sharing your fears, insecurities, failures and pain points with your listeners. There’s a two-fold risk with heavy disclosure. First, you might come across as needy or validation-seeking. Second, your listeners might laugh at you rather than with you. You want to save heavy disclosure for situations where you feel very safe sharing deeply personal and painful parts of your life. You also want your storytelling ability to match the level of disclosure, which is a matter of practice.

For the most part, when you’re out at a bar, business networking event or other place where you’re meeting new people, you’ll want to stick mostly to light self-disclosure with maybe a little bit of medium self-disclosure once you’ve started to make a connection. Heavy self-disclosure is either for people you already know very well, or people that you want to become trusted confidants and companions.

Rapport is ultimately what you want to achieve when you tell a story, so don’t gloss over thinking over this part. One of the most powerful reasons to tell a story is that it allows you to connect with several people all at once. Just how much do you want to connect? A good storyteller is aware of his level of disclosure and uses it skillfully.


Problem Solving Stories

Excerpt from Storymaking.comThe Role of the Problem in Great Stories” by James Bonnet

In real life, a problem is anything that is contrary to the way you want things to be. In a great story the problem is the central, unifying event that holds the story together. In Harry Potter, Voldemort is trying to take possession of the Wizard World. That is the problem that brings about the change of fortune and that is the problem that has to be resolved.

This and hundreds of other great stories I could name revolve around a problem that has to be resolved. And these are the central events that are holding these stories together and giving them power. And, when these problems are finally solved, it brings the story to a satisfactory conclusion and we know it is over.

The reason great stories are about problems, and what this important pattern is telling us about ourselves, is that life is all about problems. Despite their prevalence, I’m not sure that most people realize how much our lives are dominated and controlled by problems. We are bombarded daily by all sorts of big and little problems. They come at us by phone, via email and the news – everything from finding our lost keys and having nothing to wear to a stolen wallet or a flooded basement.

On top of that there are emotional problems, financial problems, health problems – threats to our lives and our well-being, threats to our families, threats to our communities, threats to our country and the world. All of the professions, in fact – doctor, lawyer, accountant, plumber, psychologist, therapist, auto mechanic, teacher, soldier, policeman, fireman, etc. are built around problem solving. They make their living solving problems for other people.

What problems do storymakers solve?

Well, great storymakers help people solve the most serious problem of all, the problem of ignorance – ignorance concerning who we really are and who we were really meant to be.

The great mission of story is to show us how to analyze, cope with, and solve the problems that stand between us and the values we are pursuing, between us and our dreams, between us and our full potential. And revealing how that problem was created and how it can be resolved is at the very heart of a great story – and at the very heart of who we are and the predicaments we face during our relatively brief visit to this sometimes scary, often delightful, but always incredible planet called Earth.

Anything you need to know about any particular problem is stored somewhere in the DNA, and the creative unconscious self can access that information. You just have to ask your self the right direct questions then play midwife to the new ideas as they come to life in your imagination.

Make your story a definitive revelation of that problem and you will make that story extremely relevant and powerful.


First Person Narrative: Writing Tips

Excerpt from “First person narrative: 7 tips for writing great narrators” by NOW NOVEL

1. Evoke the senses, not only the narrator’s inner world

Writing a novel or story in the first person makes it tempting to let your narrator dwell on their thoughts and feelings extensively. Often characters can feel lacking if all the focus is on their mental and emotional processes, though. Have your character describe not only thoughts but also sights, sounds, smells and tastes where appropriate.

When you use a first person narrator, ask:

  • What senses are strongest in this particular character and what does that say about them?

  • How can I give the reader a greater sense of an embodied narrator and not just a disembodied, storytelling ‘I’?

Remember to ground your narrator’s observations in the material world. Because this will add colour and depth to your story.

Focusing on all aspects of your narrating ‘I’ character’s experience, physical and otherwise, is one way to write a great narrator. It is also important to let readers see through your narrator’s eyes actively:

2. Avoid overusing words that place distance between the narrator and your reader

Because the narrator uses the first person ‘I’ (and sometimes the plural ‘we’) to tell the bulk of the story in first person narration, you may be tempted to begin sentences with ‘I’ a lot. Take this sentence for example:

‘I saw that the door was closed and I heard a faint scratching noise coming from within the house. I thought it sounded like someone trying to dig a tunnel out.’

The words ‘I saw’, ‘I heard’ and ‘I thought’ all place the reader at one remove to the unfolding events. The reader isn’t seeing, hearing or thinking these things through the narrator. The reader is being told about the narrator’s experiences. The scene could be more vivid if the narrator didn’t ‘report’ her or his experience.

The snippet could be rewritten as follows:

‘The door was closed and a faint scratching noise came from within the house. It sounded like someone trying to dig a tunnel out, I thought.’


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